Sunday, January 24, 2010

Part Superhero

I looked up a few recipes, Vegan and Superhero as Mrs. Silverstone likes to call them in her The Kind Diet book. Superhero is just an extension of being Vegan. It's also referred to as a macrobiotic diet. As I make my transition away from meat, dairy, refined sugar, white rice and pastas I am mixing Vegan eating (some processed soy products but in moderation, sweet treats or desserts but made with brown rice syrup or agave nectar versus refined sugar, and bread) with superhero fare (a plant based diet only consisting of 1/4 whole grain, 1/4 bean or protein, 1/2 vegetable per meal.) I'm completely Vegan but only part Superhero so far. Geez, I just can't bring myself to eat miso soup or collard greens for breakfast (soon!). While I've given up refined sugary foods (for the most part) my sweet tooth is still kicking and screaming. I am satisfying it with vegan alternatives and healthier sweeteners. But it is a stubborn mule and not really subsiding too much. Like kicking my smoking habit, I think it's gonna have to be cold turkey for awhile.

Back to the recipes. I mixed up the Superhero recipes with Vegan recipes this week so I would have a nice balance of foods I really looked forward to and foods I need to introduce myself to and get to know. I was also aware this would require virgin grocery shopping. I was like a foreigner stepping into an American grocery store for the first time. At home, I photocopied my recipes, slipped them into my plastic sheet protectors, and placed them in my 3-ring binder. I created a grocery list of my ingredients. Next, I did meal planning for Charlie and Olivia and added their items to the grocery list, now 2 1/2 pages long!

Before all my list making I spent 2 days re-arranging our tiny kitchen so it was more user friendly for me. I created my own cabinet so I wouldn't have to stare at the microwave popcorn every time I reached for my beans. I did a good job of finding space not only because this is a natural talent I have but I got rid of some stuff we no longer used. After the re-arrange and deep clean in the kitchen I was ready to venture out to the store. I decided to take Olivia with me because I wanted to allow myself time to explore and I would need help with Anderson. Plus, she wanted to get out of the house. So, while the local TV was flashing tornado watch in effect, Olivia, Anderson and I bundled up in our puffy jackets, hats, and umbrellas and headed out. Yes, I'm from Oregon but this was no Oregon rain. This was a real storm.

First stop, Ralphs. I figure I could get all of Charlie and Olivia's food for the week and see how much of mine I could find. Before leaving the house I had highlighted in yellow all the items from my list that I had no knowledge of. I had sat at the computer, looking up each and every one. I made a note next to the yellow highlight: Japanese sea vegetable, soy sauce made from soybeans and wheat, etc. The more I could find the mystery items on my own the better. I am a wimp when it comes to asking for help. I just don't like to.

We started at the far end of the store. I purposely browsed each aisle no matter the kind of food, getting familiar with foods I could never have seen before with a meat/dairy eaters eye. I browsed the soy/health refrigerated section. Most of the items were processed soy foods with substitutes like soy cream cheese, soy hot dogs and soy butter. A few of these items are good for days I don't feel like cooking or am on the go and don't want to blow my diet all together. I didn't choose any of these items this time because I came armed with all my recipes and had already decided it was going to be a week full of cooking!

As we got closer to the baking and ethnic food aisles I began to find some of my items. Olivia was amazing. I gave her an assignment and in between both of us keeping Anderson entertained we began to find my mystery items one by one. Only one time did Anderson reach a glass Jesus candle and drop it on the floor. It didn't break thank god! Olivia actually had fun with me. But that didn't surprise me. She has always had this homemaker quality about her. Sewing, cooking and creating things naturally excite her. She is happy I'm finally joining the party. It was seriously like a scavenger hunt. And the more we found the more I relaxed. I hadn't realized how stressed I had become over all this food I was so unfamiliar with. We found Udon noodles, turmeric, coriander, sesame seed oil, kabocha squash, bok choy and much more!

We were tired and depleted by the time we finished up in produce and we hadn't even made it to our second health food store, Whole Foods. I still had 1/4 of my list to get. Items Ralphs didn't carry. By the time we were unloading at checkout I was tired and cranky. I knew the cost was going to be scary high. Anderson was fussy and I was ready to go home. I was also hungry but knew I had no convenience foods to eat so a meal would be a few hours away! Charlie called during checkout madness so I didn't answer. I would call him back in a few minutes, I thought to myself. Our check out guy was new and I had a belt full of weird vegetables. Poor guy. He had to ask the checkout lady next to us for every code. Anderson was crying and it was taking forever. The party was over. Charlie decided to call Olivia after I didn't answer. She picked up and I grabbed the phone hastily out of her hand (proceeding to embarrass her and I.) I snapped at Charlie, we're busy! I need Olivia to hold Anderson while I finish unloading the cart. I'll call you back!" He said, "Sorry, I was just worried. I called you a few times earlier and you didn't answer." I looked at the time on my cell phone. We had been there for 2 1/2 hours!

We made it home. I apologized to Charlie for being rude to him and asked him to be patient with me through this transition.

The next day, re-energized I managed to get to Whole Foods by myself with the remainder of my list. It went well. I felt free to explore the shelves and found it easier to shop organically in the produce department than at Ralphs. I easily found my grains and beans, like quinoa and azuki. This excited me. I had managed to skip out of Ralphs without asking for guidance but now the hard to find items were left and I knew I may need to ask someone. I found a nice man in produce and one stocking shelves. The man in produce helped me find sweet potatoes and scallions(not to mysterious but remember I just made mash potatoes for the first time this year), and fennel bulb (smells like a carrot!).

The nice man stocking shelves helped me find wakeme, shoyua, brown rice mochi, miso paste, brown rice syrup (yum), and umeboshi vinegar. After finding a few items he looked at me and said, "Macrobiotic diet?" I nodded, embarrassed instead of proud. You know how when you try something new you feel like an amateur at first until you get your barrings? He gave me a few tips on making my own miso soup. Then Charlie called. He wanted me to pick him up some chicken. So I swung by the meat department and made it to the checkout stand without my macrobiotic helper seeing the chicken in my cart.

Speaking of preparing food for meat and dairy eaters while being vegan. It's hard! I'm not grossed out yet like some have told me I may start to become. I know I am being conscious to how horribly animals are treated on dairy farms and chicken farms. I know I am eating to help save the environment. That's all I can do. Even though I prepare Charlie's food it's still his choice to make. Anyhow, what is hard is the amount of time it takes. I know this will get better as I get better. I'm not only a new vegan cook I'm a new cook! I started my dinner last night at 7pm and ate at 9:30pm. It kind of went like this all week. Not everyday though. What's awesome about how I'm cooking is I have leftovers. So some days I didn't have to cook. I also got really ambitious last night and made three new dishes. (soda water and raspberry stoli over ice held my appetite at bay. yes I know, not very superhero of me!)

It was a rough start this week. A lot of work making lists, finding food and finding time to prepare made from scratch foods. Olivia is pretty easy. She'll eat what charlie is eating: turkey burgers, spaghetti and tacos but she'll try almost everything I make and she'll eat the vegetable portion of my meal. So, she is eating better also! We're both working on chewing our bites 30 times. Charlie asked to taste a fried udon noddle this week. Much improvement over the reaction I got from the Vegan cornbread I tried to sneak into his lunch last week.

Biggest lesson learned this week is remembering what the mystery items are once you've found them at the grocery store and have them home in the cupboard or vegetable bin. What was this again?

"There's no easy way out. If there were, I would have bought it. And believe me, it would be one of my favorite things!"
-Oprah Winfrey, O Magazine, February 2004

Vegan Enchiladas. Yum!

Fried Udon Noodles. This is my favorite dish so far. I've made it twice. It's a nice indulgent for my pasta fix.

Fried Udon accompanied by Quinoa with Basil Pine Nuts and Bok Choy drizzled with Ume Vinaigrette. The Quinoa was interesting. I will make it again but I'll need to get used to the strong flavor. I loved the Bok Choy althought the Ume Vinegar is very strong. I'll tone it down next time.

Preparing Sweet Potato-Lentil Stew. This dish has lasted me all week (poured over cous-cous) and is very yummy!

Scarlett Roasted Vegetables. This was not my favorite dish. I was looking forward to an array of veggies but I didn't end up liking the flavors or some of the veggies. I didn't core the fennel bulb properly and I didn't really like the kabocha squash. The recipe called for 3-4 bay leaves. My dish pre-roast looked like I rounded up some items from the ground outside and threw some leaves on it. The bay leaves kind of made it taste this way. Thumbs down but I am open to creating my own roasted veggies!

Homemade Miso soup!

*All recipes can be found in, The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I took the time to give myself a manicure and pedicure today. I had been admiring the nails of other women and missing the days I easily plucked down cash for the long acrylic ones that always made me feel feminine and beautiful. I have been staring at my unkept toes with faded, scratchy old nail polish halfway up the nail screaming at me to be freed from my toes. Now they are polished and pretty and I won't be picking the fuzz out of them (ewww) moments before yoga class. Becoming Vegan is alot like taking the time to give yourself a pedicure or manicure. It takes time, patience and committment. I would not characterize last week, my second week of my re-committment to being a vegan as a great one. I followed my no dairy or meat rules and tried to follow my looser rules of whole grains, no refined sugar or "nasty" foods. What makes my vegan committment difficult is the amount of work it takes to prepare whole, nourishing foods. After I prepare food for three other persons in my household, by default, my plate is the last one I am thinking about. By the time I have time to prepare my vegan dish or meal I am usually tired or starving without the patience to wait for a prepared dish. This leads me to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, soycheese melted on a tortilla or bowl of cereal. Not exactly the balanced plant-based, nourishing foods I am trying to get on my plate. Its okay. This is all a work in progress. Simple, weekly goals will get me there. I have a new lists of a few veggies, beans, and grains to try this week. This has me excited. Little tasks like discovering foods to try, making new recipes and visiting vegan sites or reading my book once a day keeps me re-energized and re-focused during probably the most difficult time of this transition. I don't feel great yet. I feel hungry and have difficult cravings. Mostly for carbs likes crackers, cookies, chips and pasta. The best part of this journey for me is the mind set to not be hard on myself, to be forgiving when I go off track and to do the best I can without harsh expectations. I've never really had this frame of mind ever when it comes to my food, weight and dieting. I have been an emotional eater my entire life it feels like. I've come to feel comfortable with being hard on myself and feeling bad about food choices. I don't anymore. I am choosing a different way and it is awesome! Here's to day 17 of being gentler to myself, animals, and the planet.

"It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities." - Dumbledore in Harry Potter

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Vegan in the kitchen

On the menu tonight:

Pad Thai with Tofu.

Vegan Corn Bread.

Steamed Asparagus with Vegan Butter.

Remnants of the paper towel that caught on fire while I was taking photos.

Olivia's dinner after I spilled my glass of organic red wine on it.

For recipes go to

Sit up straight and eat your food

Today I am cranky and overwhelmed by the amount of work being a Vegan is going to take. I am really unfamiliar with food in general. I have been eating the same kinds of food for a long time and as my life has gotten busier with kids and husband I have eaten more and more from the box. I always know when I’m not eating well balanced because it only takes me a few minutes to shop the produce department. My brain is soaking in so much new information I’m not sure where to even start. So many new vegetables, grains and beans to learn about, to cook, to taste. It’s going to take some time to locate foods in the grocery store as well. I don’t know where to get Umeboshi plums, Barley Mart or Kabocha squash. I’ll need a system of introducing some new foods a few at a time.

The way I eat is as much a hurdle as what I am eating. From years of eating convenience foods I have conditioned myself to snack while I prepare my food. I had conditioned my body to expect food within 15 minutes of preparing it. I eat while standing up, driving, talking, surfing the web and my favorite- watching TV. I realize this contributes to my unhealthy relationship to food. I eat unconsciously. It is actually very difficult for me to sit down at the table (especially by myself) and eat without watching or reading anything. And more so if it’s dessert. This is a big hurdle for me. It seems so simple. Sit down at the table and eat with no distractions. It’s really hard for me to do! Olivia and I tried to follow miss Silverstone's suggestion for how many times you should chew your food. How much you chew actually effects your health. It has to do with your food breaking down and your body releasing glucose. She suggests 20-30. We both got to 20. After a few minutes I forgot what we were doing and went back to a few chews then a swallow. Suddenly Olivia shouts 30! She was like, I did it mom!

This is really going to take some practise. I'm starting out with simple rules. Eat at the table. Try and eat with no computer(I failed at lunch today). It's like reading the paper and having coffe with toast. I enjoy the combination. But I also get that I need to change how I think about food. It's nourishment for my mind, body and soul. I need to stay conscious to that. I know I sound hippyesque but I do believe in this stuff.

Go back a little to leap futher - John Clarke

Saturday, January 9, 2010

V is for Vegan

I cheated yesterday. I had a handful of Oreos. They contain dairy. I also ate the rest of Charlie’s chocolate bar. Then I figured since I had already eaten dairy from the cream in the middle of Oreo I could have a glass of milk with it too. What was my excuse for all this debauchery? I am going to fall of the wagon from time to time. But that was so lame. I was choosing to fall of the wagon. Get it? I didn’t even try to say no. It was pathetic. I need to save my falling off the wagon times for real stressful situations like the time I went Christmas shopping at the mall with Charlie and Olivia. We were in the food court and there was a beautiful, gorgeous, I mean absolutely perfect Dolcefine Gelato store where the mounds of gelato were carefully and colorfully organized. I went as far as to stand in line with them but quickly realized I needed to leave. I left and found coffee bean where I ordered a hot tea that ended up being too hot to drink by the time the two were facing me with their piles of dripping gelatos. They were licking them with enjoyment and all I could think about was how I was missing out on the whole Christmas shopping experience. I actually didn’t give in. Not one lick. I had only started veganism a week prior. I wasn’t about to give in that easy, so actually that wasn’t a great example of me falling off the wagon but it was the hardest moment of staying on.

I started being vegan dec 6th. I stopped three weeks after that. I became freaked out that soy was bad for you. I needed to do more research on it. I actually had a stranger walk up to me in Whole Foods and tell me Soy was the worse thing I can put in my body. What the fuck? (oops, can Vegans say fuck?). Well I’m back. I started again January first. A great day to start anything new! During my first three weeks of Veganism I fell off the wagon once. I made a chocolate cream pie for Charlie and Olivia. Oh god, chocolate pudding is my favorite. I could not resist. I really did try and it does count as a falling off the wagon because I really wanted to stay true. Well of course since I had one piece of pie I ate another one later. I had already cheated right? The pie, the recent Oreos, glass of milk and chocolate bar pieces pretty much cover my failings. I don’t count the accident night. We had shrimp pot stickers and veggie gyozas in the freezer. They look exactly the same. I accidentally made the shrimp ones. I didn’t realize until I had bitten into the second one. Well damn it to hell. I finished them anyway. I was starving and I wasn’t about to wait 7 more minutes to steam the veggie ones.

Alicia Silverstone’s book, The Kind Diet is my bible right now. I love the book. It makes perfect sense! My first three weeks of Veganism went ok with the exception of the pie incident but I went hard core. Trying to cut out all refined sugar and white foods. I’m taking it easier this time around. I think if I graduate into eating my ideal diet I will sustain it for the long run.

The Journey is the Destination ~ Dan Eldon